The Architecture of Unhappiness

Tomorrow is Pecha Kucha at Sky City. Many of the speakers are presenting about architecture.

I've been thinking about architecture. Not from the point of view of decor and taste (the new porn), but from the persopective of form and function.

Corbusier talked about 'machines for living' and he delivered some of the worst buildings in the history of mankind. His influence is possibly at its apogee in the projects of New York - paradoxically the nadir of human habitation. Bleak, soulless landscapes that left character and a sense of place out of consideration.

Le Corbusier's vision for Paris

Walking through Auckland's central city recently I was astonished at what a wasteland it is, virtually devoid of recognisable character or personality. It isn't until you get the the very bottom of Albert Street that you get a sense of what could be possible. The Auckland Harbour on a fine day is a relief from the grimy, run down city.

Unfortunately there is virtually nowhere for city workers or dwellers to enjoy it. Some huddle on the steps and miserly boardwalk between Princess Wharf and the Ferry Building. There isn't a blade of grass to be seen.

 It reminded me of the debate over the waterfront stadium for the Rugby World Cup. I am glad that project didn't go ahead, but it is a pity that the conversation about the use of the waterfront didn't continue. Likewise, I haven't heard much about the development of the Tank Farm of late. The Auckland City Council web site continues to carry an invocation from Dick Hubbard from some time ago (though he is still identified as the Mayor of Auckland City). For all the talk of opportunity, I have doubts. It seems that, when opportunities have been presented in the past, they have been shunned in favour of easy-outs. At the end of Customs Street West on the Viaduct, next to where I work, there is a plaza that looks out onto the viaduct harbour. It is cobbled with a kind of crazy paving that seems intent on making the large square uninviting to skateboarders. Unfortunately it also makes it uninhabitable by people who might want to spread out a blanket and have a picnic lunch or lay in the sun and read a book - or watch clouds. It is incomprehensible to me why the area isn't grassed. I suppose the cost of gardening is too great? I am sitting in the centre of the space now, as I write, and my greatest inclination is to get away as fast as possible.

Richard Florida, who featured in our Launch issue talks bout the things that make for creative cities. In a way the things that make for creative cities are also the thngs that civilise us - principally places where people can meet and recreate and be entertained. Barren crazy paved wastelands, lonely looking public sculputers twisting in the wind.

The development in the Britomart precinct might also make a difference to downtown. But like the rest of Auckland it too turns its back on the harbour.


Tomorrow 23rd May | doors open 19:30h | start 20:20h |Level 5, Sky City Convention Centre, Federal Street, Auckland City | admission $10

Pecha Kucha Web Site 

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